Ashley Love-Mills (@) plays the lead character “Valarie” on Tyler Perry‘s “Too Close To Home.” Which airs on Wednesday’s at 10 pm on the TLC Network. Ashley was actually hand picked by Tyler Perry for this role after she auditions for him. In addition, she is the 2013 winner of The North Carolina Miss Beauty Pageant as she made history becoming the 5th African American to win this prestigious award since it’s inception in 1952. Ashley followed this up with a top 10 finish in the 2013 Miss USA Pageant.
When she not working in the entertainment business Ashley is very involved as a voice against the bullying epidemic. She created the Reach For More: Be Better Than average campaign. Soon after, she partnered with the NC Department of Public Instruction in 2013 forming a statewide tour to which she spoke with over 25,000 students, educating them around the bullying epidemic and how they can fight back against it.
The Hype Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Ashley to discuss her thoughts about being hand picked by Tyler Perry as Valarie in “Too Close To Home.” Being able to see J Cole in concert at NC State University before he became the household name that he is today. Ashley’s interview can be soon below and we at The Hype Magazine hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed speaking with her. Make sure you tune into Tyler Perry’s “Too Close to Home” every Wednesday at 1o PM on the TLC Network.
When you are on the set of “Too Close to Home” what is the vibe as far as a workspace?
The vibe is really dope even though we work at a fast pace. I absolutely adore the cast. We’re like a family. We all get along so well which is so important to have when you’re on a time crunch. The cast, crew and everyone else in production really is some of the most amazing people I have ever worked with. Yes, we’re at TPS to do a job but the feeling of knowing that the people I’m working with every day are good people and so genuine makes work so much easier to deal with despite the challenges that work may bring.
What does it mean to you that you were hand-picked by Tyler Perry for your role as “Valerie”?
I’m so humbled by it and every time I think about it, I get all mushy inside. LOL. We’ve already shot two seasons yet I still find that I can’t really wrap my head around how my life has changed so much in the last 8 months. It has literally been a dream of mine for years to work with Tyler. I mean TYLER PERRY KNOWS MY FREAKING NAME! How Sway!!!!! That’s completely insane to me and to see how the things I once hoped for have come to fruition really has shown me that ANYTHING is possible.
You have been dubbed one of the only five African Women to win the title of Miss North Carolina USA in 2013 since its inception in 1952. What does it mean to you as an individual?
As a black woman, winning the title really meant everything to me. It was back at the end of 2012, right before I won, that I started this path of really trying to “speaking things into existence”. I had a feeling way down in my gut that as long as I stayed true to who I was, that being a woman of color would not stand in my way of winning such a coveted title in one of the most competitive pageant states in the country. My parents never really even thought I’d win in all honesty. Lol. I had so many young women reach out to me after I was crowned telling me how my story inspired them. In many of those moments, I realized that I too carry the responsibility of paving the way for those who have a dream.
When you were accepted into North Carolina State University as freshmen. Was obtaining your degree in Media Communications and a minor in TV/Film Production your main goal?
My main goal since the age of 3 really was to become an actress. I can remember telling my parents back then that I wanted to be on tv. I was full of energy and ready to perform at a moment’s notice. I had the chance to move to LA at the age of 17 and get an agent, and two days before it was time to fly out, my parents pulled the plug and told me I was going to college. I had applied to NC State and got accepted but my eyes were set on Hollywood. But yes, of course, my goal then quickly became to get my degree which I did in 3 1/2 years so I could get back to doing what I wanted. Plus, I’d never start something and not finish it. I’m more than grateful for my college experiences and it’s helped to shape who I am today. While in college, I even had the chance to live abroad and study film. So either way, my college education has helped to position me where I am today in my entertainment career. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Are there any events we should be aware that involves “Reach For More: Be Better Than average campaign” this year?
2017 has only begun so with that being said, I’m still in the early stages of mapping out what my year will be like. I’m always supporting and promoting many different causes that are geared toward bettering the lives of our youth because everything starts with them. But the Bullying Epidemic has always something I’ve been very passionate about because I was bullied and tormented in high school and to this day, I’ve never really understood why. What I do know is how it made me feel. I still have vivid images and memories in my head of those who made my high school experience terrifying to the point that I was afraid to come to school. I often times would fake sick just to avoid going.
So for this year….I can for sure say I will ALWAYS be pushing and spreading a message that emphasizes that we should love one another and accept each other no matter the color of our skin, ethnic background, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc. That seems to be a message that is spreading like wildfire in this country so I’ll continue to be another public figure pushing love and acceptance for all.
Do you plan on owning your own production company at some point in career?
Yes, I DO! In fact, that is already in the making. I incorporated Mustard Seed Film Entertainment in September 2016. I just finished shooting my first documentary entitled “Project Christmas On Me” no less than a few weeks ago. I’m working on a teaser now to get some feedback from my team, and then I’ll eventually finish it out as a feature that I’d like to submit to film festivals. I’m already working on a lot of original content as well. 10 different treatments are finished and one screenplay is about halfway written. I used to have to write tons of screenplays in college so this is really putting my degree to good use! Ha! My goal by the end of 2017…my first feature should be in the beginning stages of production. The overall goal from a branding perspective is to be an actress that CAN truly to do it all and be known for creating more socially aware content in Hollywood while maintaining a strong career as an A-list actress. Eventually, the best in the game to ever do it. Being that Tyler is my boss, he has inspired me a lot even long before ever meeting him. So ideally, I’d love to have my own studio one day as well and constantly have artistic content that Hollywood truly sees as valued “art”. I do this solely for the art, not the accolades. I guess you could say Art is my drug.
Being that you are from North Carolina are you a fan of J. Cole’s Music?
Yes! I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in spring 2008. Before he blew up…which we all knew would eventually happen and that fall when school started back, J. Cole came to perform at one of our back to school parties for us at the student center. He’s one of the few Hip Hop artists, in my opinion, that will remain timeless because his lyrics are real. It’s that simple for me. When I’m listening to music, no matter the genre, that’s what I’m looking for. Authenticity.
Who are some of the other musician you enjoy listening to?
I’ve been listening to so many different genres of music here lately. My mood sort of determines what my ears want to hear. LOL But I’m a big fan of Sevyn Streeter. She’s probably one of my favorite female artists. I also just got put onto this new artist’s EP…… the artist’s name is H.E.R. She doesn’t show her face on the EP cover which I think is dope which forces the listener just focus on the music. Bryson Tiller is cool; Childish Gambino; Bruno Mars’ new album is fire!! Solange and The Internet are usually on repeat too.
Can you discuss your upcoming role as Monique “LWA: All Saints’ Eve”?
Monique is a young businesswoman that is forced to come back home to New Orleans after her parents, who own a voodoo shop on Bourbon Street, are mysteriously killed. While out hosting a swamp tour for tourists, she is lured into a deadly confrontation with a ruthless sorceress who conjures the dark spirits of voodoo in the eerie swamps of Louisiana.
Monique was a fun character to play and very different from my role as Valerie on Too Close To Home. You don’t see many black women starring in action fantasy types of films so I was totally up for the challenge when I was offered the part. It was cool too because I did my own stunts for all of the fight scenes. I’m now a producer on this project and we’re in the final stages of pitching and prepping for distribution so keep your eyes out for it.
What is your advice for some of the aspiring entertainers looking to enter the business?
Don’t rush the process. Time has a way of changing things so be patient. Stay true to yourself and create a small circle of people that are moving forward in their lives the same way you desire to. Get used to hearing the word “no” because it’s almost never personal. But don’t be afraid of the word “yes” either. That’s what happens with progression. Time moves everything forward. Eventually, you will get a yes so move forward confidently knowing that you were chosen for a reason without being afraid of making mistakes. You will make mistakes. LOTS of them so learn from them! Never judge yourself or the characters you play.